30 June 2007

Twin Lakes Backpacking

I had a few days for a backpack trip last week, and friend Dave & his daughter Chelsea suggested Lake of the Isle/Twin Lakes area on the west side of the Great Divide. We ended up going to a long valley just north of LotI, a place I've wanted to visit, just over the ridge (Continental Divide) from 10 Mile Lakes. Here is the cirque, a bit distorted by my amateurish photo-stitching:

Soon after leaving the Twin Lakes trail, we ended up bushwhacking through some difficult deadfall in the mid-elevation forest. Hmmm... I thought there was an old packer's trail into this place. Here are Chelsea, RTD, and I--happy, before the grim reality of cross country hiking in the ugly stuff set in:

Well, we did see lots of critters to cheer us on,
such as this curious mule deer doe:

and this curious elk cow:

I suspect both had young hidden near by, and were reluctant to flee. I thought we would see goats for sure, but found nary a sign of them. They were once common in this area, but seem to be suffering from the constant snow machine harassment that occurs throughout the winter.

Well, lots of bear sign, though (some critters are more tolerant of humans than others),

and fresh (note the hair--this guy recently ate an elk calf, I think):
And we saw a bear, but like so many ursine meetings it was fleeting, no time for a photo.

Here are my companions at an old logger's cabin (the ACM raped the timber out of this area, too, a century or so ago):
The 90 degree F heat made the alpine basin feel especially good. Few trees can match the beauty of the alpine larch. They grow in incredibly harsh conditions, on scree, avalanche chutes, and wind (and lightning) blasted ridges:
There were an extraordinary number of tiny yellow violets dotting the open ground covered by snow drifts just a few weeks ago:

A supper of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and asparagus looks pretty good too:

ATV trail violations are increasingly a problem in this area, as everywhere. No wonder, given the Forest Service policy of trying to close old roads rather than reclaim them. A big wide road is a big wide invitation to ATV riders, and the pitiful closure efforts mean nothing, as you can see by the illegal bypass:

Putting trails across old roads on clearcuts makes for hot hiking too--as with Dave & Chelsea here on the trek out:

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